Friday, September 23, 2011

The problem with conservative arguments

Many years ago I read a quote (no idea by whom) that went approximately like this:
The fundamental, fatal problem with conservative arguments is that they address a reality that no longer exists.
My favorite example is the fond desire among conservatives for "abstinence-only" sex education. The raw fact is that, no matter what some moralizing preacher may say, kids today don't practice strict abstinence (if they ever did), and there is no realistic scenario under which they will start. So arguing that we should rely on teaching it is just whistling in the wind: you might as well argue that we should all live like Amish people.

Now, living like the Amish might be a fine idea, but the fact is that it just ain't going to happen. Staking your worldview on something like abstinence is doomed to fail, is a waste of time, and in fact, relying on it would only increase the demand for the social conservatives' biggest target: abortion.

I guess what you could perhaps say is that adhering to these reactionary positions may serve to "move the Overton window," in other words, may shift the center of gravity of the debate in their desired direction. Maybe some conservatives are realistic enough to realize that they are advocating hopeless positions for strategic reasons. But I tend to doubt it.

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